Jan 30

Food Trends for 2019

This week I decided to check out the flagship store of a certain ‘natural’ food and products chain.  After all, an afternoon in a food shop counts as research, right? In this case my aim was to identify food trends for 2019 in the health food industry.  Obviously a little browsing (even with a good bit of tasting thrown in) doesn’t make me an expert, but here’s what I’m noticing this year.
Fermented Foods
fridge of kefir

Not so long ago we had never heard of kefir. Now here’s a fridge full

Perhaps I’m noticing these more because I’m currently trying out a protocol which encourages them, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a whole fridge of kefir before.  In case you’re wondering, kefir is a fermented milk product.  Apparently, make-your-own kefir kits are flying off the shelves.  For vegans there’s sauerkraut, fermented soya, miso, nato and probably many more.  These are supposed to be the new wonder foods for promoting a healthy microbiome – in other words, for nourishing the beneficial bacteria that populate the gastrointestinal tract.  Personally, I’m not keen on the ‘pickled vegetable’ varieties of fermented food, but I’m trying to get my head around kefir, and I’m developing a taste for miso.  With a greater range of products available, everyone is sure to find something to suit.
Vegan Ranges
Vegan food

There are masses of vegan products on the market, but they can’t beat whole foods for nutritional value

Veganism is currently the fastest growing food trend with the UK vegan market exceeding £310 million a year.  Naturally, retailers have jumped on the bandwagon.  More ranges than ever are suitable for vegans, and there are more products aimed at vegans than I’ve ever seen.  In some ways this is fantastic, because it means that there’s more variety out there, and it’s easier than it’s ever been to have a healthy and varied vegan diet.  Gone are the days when “I’m a vegetarian” (‘vegan’ wasn’t even known 30 years ago) resulted in a blank look and a slightly singed nut roast.  Now, the shelves, chiller cabinets and freezers all vie to attract the green pound.
A word of caution, though.  ‘Vegan’ doesn’t always mean ‘healthy’ or ‘good for the planet’. I see a lot of vegan products that are highly processed, meaning that they’ve created a heavy carbon footprint, and probably aren’t the healthiest.  Many of them have never seen a vegetable in their lives.  There are a lot of soya ‘fake meat’ products that I’d be a bit wary of, especially if you’re not used to them, as the jury is still out over whether they have a positive or negative effect on hormones, and vegan burgers which contain refined grains, sugars and preservatives don’t impress me either.  Furthermore, they’re encased in layers of plastic and cardboard. If you’re aiming for a lifestyle that’s as good for your body as it is for the planet, you may want to go back to basics and stick with whole foods in their original form.
Creatively Gluten Free
Gluten Free

If you need or want to do without gluten there’s plenty of choice available. But is it all healthy?

It seems that the gluten free trend hasn’t gone away.  You could even say that we in the nutrition world encourage it, as we often recommend a period of gluten exclusion as part of a ‘healthy gut’ protocol.
Unfortunately, gluten free breads and other similar products have a history of containing highly refined ingredients and tasting like cardboard.  I encourage my clients to avoid them, and not to try and imitate bread, but to find something completely different.
However, manufacturers have started to up their game.  Last week, a friend told me about some kale bread she had tried.  It sounds absolutely horrible, but she loved it.  The biggest improvement I’ve noticed is on the pasta shelf.  Gluten free pasta used to be pale and stodgy, lacking in fibre and incredibly difficult to cook without it turning to mush.  Now, the shelf is a riot of colour and a pleasure to look at.  Who could have dreamed a year or two ago of edamame pasta, black bean pasta or red lentil pasta?  Yet here they are, and, dare I say it, some of them are a really good substitute for the real thing.  And that’s coming from an Italian!
Corn Products and Mexican Food

Corn seems to be the new food of choice in snacks and breads this year

Corn tortillas have been around for a long time, but I’ve noticed that corn seems to be the ingredient du jour in just about everything at the moment.  I even found a whole rack of different kinds of corn.  In school, the kids are bringing in popcorn snacks as an alternative to crisps.  Air-popped corn without added flavourings could indeed be a healthier option; it’s a useful little source of fibre, with a cup containing 1g, and on its own it’s low in salt and sugar.  However, most people don’t eat it like that.  When you start frying it in cheap oil and adding flavours, the stuff becomes less healthy (surprise, surprise).  For example, a third of a packet of ‘sweet and salty’ popcorn contains 8.9g fat, 0.47g salt and 6.4g sugar. A snack-sized pack of bog-standard crisps scores about the same for salt, but is lower in both fat and sugar. Not that I recommend crisps, but it’s just an illustration that what we perceive as ‘healthy’ may not always be as healthy as we think.  Remember that the fat in these products is of poor quality from a nutritional perspective; certainly not a ‘healthy fat’.  So, corn may be a great addition to a varied diet to increase your daily fibre, but I’m happy to retain a healthy scepticism around corn snacks.
Protein Powders
Protein shake

Who needs protein powders?

There’s a dazzling array of these products on offer at the moment; more than ever before, and in an eye-watering selection of flavours and formulations.  How do you choose?  In all honesty, you probably don’t.  Most of us get sufficient protein without needing ‘add-ons’.  Nevertheless, there are circumstances in which protein powders are useful, and I’ll happily confess to using them myself when I need to.  If you do need one, it’s largely a matter of personal preference which one you go for, although there are a few things to take into consideration.  But that’s a subject for a blog post all on its own.  Stay tuned.
What have you spotted on the shelves in 2019 that may become the next best thing?  Send me a comment and let me know.

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